Going back to one’s Roots
– probably isn’t something you’d expect an ex-fine dining chef to be doing in his culinary endeavors. And that’s exactly what makes this place worth a trip.
An unassuming shop front at a secluded spot along Dickson Road, who would’ve thought there laid a hidden gem behind rows of dilapidated shophouses. A humble Kitchen Bar with an ambitious goal, ROOTS was founded by 3 friends who wanted to proactively change the way we dine.
They realised that the food industry these days compromise either quality or affordability – this then sparked their interest to provide for Singaporeans food that is both good and affordable. Hence ROOTS emphasises and takes pride in the quality of their food – including top fresh ingredients and skillful techniques.
Basically, “going back to [their] roots” to create great food.
Despite being helmed by several professionals of their particular industries, ROOTS prides themselves as a Kitchen Bar and not a serious restaurant as they want to keep things casual and welcoming.
A fine-dining chef whipping up Carbonara? Hmm quite an odd notion but interesting nonetheless!
Entering this dimly lit place, I was instantly calmed by a rustic industrial charm, casual yet intimate at the same time. (I personally am a sucker for anything remotely industrial inspired.)
Another of ROOTS’ belief is to provide an all-encompassing dining experience for every customer. Not only should the food be good, the environment should be excellently conducive for eating together happily as well. Hence the nicely decorated yet casual setting.
They even deliberately installed power plugs under a row of bar seats so that customers can come for a relaxing date with their beloved computers. They won’t judge. They’ll even give you free wifi.
Both satisfyingly light and refreshing. The white sangria is a special cocktail they’ve made themselves with green apples, cucumber, a bit of lime juice, ginger ale and of course white wine. Not in the mood for alcohol? You can always opt for the virgin option at only $7. The Strawberry Earl Grey could use some toning up of the Earl Grey and tweaking down of its the sugar level.
I’m happy to say that ROOTS Kitchen and Bar has pretty good coffee too! Disclaimer: am not a coffee connoisseur. But hey if it tastes good, it’s good isn’t it?
Their flat white (not pictured) was sufficiently robust and creamy, and not of the acidic sort. Andy, one of their co-owners explained to me their home blend of beans tend to be sweeter but less strong, which makes them good for coffees like Flat White. People who enjoy drinking espressos are encouraged to go for a double shot for a richer, darker caffeine flavour.
Sufficiently tangy yet creamy, this Roasted Tomato Soup with Chorizo, Red Pepper and Crab Guacamole was really appetising. The usually biting and overwhelming taste of tomato did not overshadow the overall flavour of the soup, leaving it easy to enjoy without cringing upon tasting sourness every few mouthfuls.
It boggles me how chorizo and crab guacamole contributed to make this delicious liquid, but magic happens in the kitchen if you’re good enough right? Whatever David Blaine-Gordan Ramsey Magic Cauldron crap going on there – I like it a lot.
Ah, the classic mushroom soup. It was smooth and creamy, not of the chunky sort yet the flavour and fragrance of mushrooms were still prevalent. What was not classic about it was the addition of Braised Leek and Hazelnut Gremolata that gave the soup volume and sweetness.
Live vicariously through this: Soft fibrous leek grazes your tongue as you drink a spoonful of this soup while delicate sweet hints of hazelnut slowly reveals itself.
The salmon they’ve cured in-house with Absolut Vodak, was soft to the bite. Thick slices of salmon were complemented by the delightfully aromatic garlic aioli sauce and the crunchy tart pickled dill. This dish could really be a winning appetiser if the salmon had more flavour.
Loaded? Yes Loaded with eclectic goodness. ROOTS’ Loaded Sweet Potato fries is topped with Jalapenos, Olives, Stewed Pork and baked with Feta, spreading all that cheesy goodness.
Although the combination of sweet, cheesy spicy and slightly sour might sound odd, it works well! Just like the dance-pop song “4 minute” where Timbaland, Justin Timberlake and Madonna collaborated – a weird combination that turned out pretty good in the end.
I was doubtful about this combination of ingredients at first but boy was I wrong.
The sweet potato fries were sweet and soft then, the feta adds the cheesy goodness it does to everything without overwhelming the dish. The Jalapenos and olives were what gave the dish the extra kick – biting into them releases that spicy zest and aroma.
After a forkful of this combination finishes with jalapeno taste still lingering in your mouth, you might struggle to figure out how it was sweet then cheesy then spicy and zesty, like I did. In the end, I just accepted this great eclectic combination and continued eating forkfuls of it. An interesting sidedish that I’d recommend trying.
ROOTS serves all-day breakfast. So fans of breakfast food, you can add one more place to your list. Upon hearing that their Eggs Benedict & Caviar was a signature dish, I was anticipating what such an indulgent sounding dish would taste like.
When presented with this Eggs Benedict dish, I was gladly surprised to see that it uses waffles instead of muffins or bread. This change strikes well with a waffle-fan.
The poached eggs were well-executed with the whites set while the yolks slightly thick and runny. The waffles were nicely crunchy but I suppose would be good if it were a tad bit sweeter. Taste wise, apart from the prosciutto, the entire the dish seemed to lack flavour. Perhaps the hollandaise sauce could use some change.
Another one of ROOTS’ signature dish is the Nagano Pork Rack with Braised Cabbage, Mustard Seed and Grape Compote. The Pork was chewy, juicy and with a whisper of pink in the centre. Soft and creamy, the cabbage was braised sufficiently. It was also the main flavour to the otherwise bland pork. Perhaps the sweet grape compote might complement even better if it was just a tad bit sour.
Beautifully deconstructed lemon curd and passionfruit tart with marshmellow ice cream cookie sandwich. I personally enjoy the lemon and passionfruit combination as it tames the sourness with some fresh fruity sweetness.
The tart base was baked well, giving the dessert some solidity. The marshmellow ice cream, stuck between two layers of soft crumbly cookies, was not grossly sweet which was a relief – the sweetness came from the cookies instead. Not jaw-droppingly amazing, but I would come back for this.
And speaking of coming back for more, I would definitely come back for their Banana-Bailey Bread and Butter Pudding. As a complete sucker for Bread and Butter pudding, I would pay the chef to make me a tub full of this. Just take my money.
The bread was crispy at the sides and soft in the middle with a layer of baked banana inside. It was actually more bread than pudding to be honest but softness and buttery fragrance were still characters of it’s original predecessor. The Bailey’s cream together with the berries gave this already good base the extra oomph.
Other interesting dishes in their menu include the Ocean Crab Pasta ($18) that uses Lobster Bisque as a sauce base, and the London Broil ($22), a dish that is difficult to execute as it requires skillful preparation of extremely lean steak.
ROOTS Kitchen Bar has plenty of hits but the misses in their main courses could deal a huge blow to overall satisfaction. I would say it’s a place brimming with potential. With more experimentation with the flavours of their food, they could sustain a good crowd especially since the new Downtown Line Rochor MRT station will be opening soon.
Expected Damage: $30 – $50 per pax